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South Bank area guide

Your ultimate guide to all the cultural happenings and best things to do along this lively stretch of the river

London’s South Bank is a hub of cultural activity. A two-mile procession of diverting, largely state-funded arts and entertainment venues and events, it’s popular with Londoners as well as the millions of travellers who visit every year.

The area’s modern-day life began in 1951 with the Festival of Britain, which was staged to boost morale in the wake of WWII. Standing testament to the project is The Royal Festival Hall, which has now expanded into the Southbank Centre and sits alongside BFI Southbank, the concrete ziggurat of the National Theatre, the London Eye, the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and more. 

As well as being a great place to soak up some London culture, the South Bank is the perfect spot for a wander along the Thames or a drink with a view of the city skyline. 

RECOMMENDED: Our London area guides

Things to do on the South Bank

National Theatre

National Theatre

One of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Southbank Centre
Museums

Southbank Centre

One of the most attractive cultural hotspots in London. 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants on the South Bank

Caravan Bankside
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Caravan Bankside

As you’d expect, the food at this third branch of coffee-roasters-turned-fusion-fare hawkers Caravan is sound – with a broad, globally peripatetic menu branching ever wider from the Antipodean fare it first made its name with. Plus, the cavernous room – all lofty height, stripped wood and metal girders – looks marvellous.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Sea Containers at Mondrian London
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Sea Containers at Mondrian London

Venue says: “Bringing the best of American and British cuisine to the Southbank, offering a modern yet casual dining experience in an informal setting.”

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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House at the National Theatre
Restaurants

House at the National Theatre

A serious interior sets the tone for cooking of considerable ambition and adventurousness at the National Theatre's restaurant. Though there are more conventional dishes, desserts make it clear that chefs here possess creativity that's bursting to get out. The perfect location if you’re seeing a performance at the Olivier or Lyttleton Theatres.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Wahaca
Restaurants

Wahaca

You’ve heard of living in a box. How about dining in a box? Or, to be precise, eating in one of eight shipping containers. This pop-up Mexican restaurant and ‘dining project’is perched on the terrace of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with 130 seats spread over two floors.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Hotels on the South Bank

Mondrian at Sea Containers

Mondrian at Sea Containers

Right on the river, the epic interiors evoke an ocean-going liner.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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citizenM London Bankside

citizenM London Bankside

A casually stylish, well-designed and well-located hotel. 

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Bars and pubs on the South Bank

Dandelyan
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Dandelyan

Venue says: “Come and try Dandelyan's fourth chapter, exploring the different ways that botany has played a role in human vice and guilty pleasures.”

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden Bar & Café
Restaurants

Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden Bar & Café

Have lunch or sip drinks in this rooftop allotment-cum-woodland-cum-wildflower meadow. At sunny lunchtimes, you'd be hard put to find a prettier setting for a sandwich in central London. 

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Skylon Bar
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Skylon Bar

A nice blend of contemporary style and retro chic (look out for nods to the 1951 Festival of Britain), Skylon makes terrific use of its cathedral ceilings and vast windows, which afford views of river, skyline and people on the move.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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The Understudy
Bars and pubs

The Understudy

A relaxed craft beer pub with riverside seating at the National Theatre. 

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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The perfect weekend on the South Bank

See: A play at National Theatre

See: A play at National Theatre

It's arguably the greatest theatre in the world.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Browse: South Bank Book Market
Shopping

Browse: South Bank Book Market

Endless second-hand books, maps and old prints for sale on the South Bank.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Explore: Tate Modern

Explore: Tate Modern

This powerhouse of modern art is awe-inspiring even before you enter. 

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Eat: Southbank Centre Food Market
Things to do

Eat: Southbank Centre Food Market

Independent producers promising the best of the London food scene.

Love London Awards: 2016’s winners

The Laughing Gravy
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The Laughing Gravy

A restaurant serving seasonal British grub.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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The Hop Locker
Bars and pubs

The Hop Locker

A craft beer stall at Southbank Market.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Lower Marsh Market
Shopping

Lower Marsh Market

A rapidly expanding foodie strip.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Travelling Through...
Things to do

Travelling Through...

An independent book shop and art space.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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See the full results of last year's Love London Awards

Comments

3 comments
John L
John L

Growing up, the South Bank was desolate until the skaters came in. It's been great seeing the spaces come to life around it, and we now have a buzzing vibrant place with lots to see, do and eat but hats off to the pioneers who brought their own street culture there and I hope it is retained exactly as it is. I'm a big fan of the food market at weekends and love the bigger food festivals which spread along the front.

Sue B
Sue B

Just love the southbank. so much to see and do. perfect day out whatever the weather, from the Tower to the nooks and crannies, around the Cathedral and the Golden Hind. what an adventure. have done this walk several times and I still love it.